A liberal thesis

To twist Cromwell, is it government's business to do

Now, of course, The Liberal Thesis is that the answer to the former is the only valid answer to the latter - and that the only valid way to get `my view of what's Good For Britain' to be `what Britain does' is for me to persuade my peers to want it. The Big Issue, in my mind, is whether the Liberal and Social Democratic party realises this.

'cos it's singularly obvious that Britain's other political parties don't.

On the other hand, there's a screamingly obvious fact that a large slice of the Tory party's vote actually comes from folk with liberal sentiments who don't notice the Cromwellian (not what they want but what's good for them) attitudes of their party but do notice those of the Labour party. And this is currently negotiable - the SLD could capture these folk's votes.

The Tories will, in opposition, reinforce their grip on that liberal slice of the population. Unless the issue of `what we want or what some ruler thinks is good for us' gets forced into the open while they can still remember that, in fact, Central Office really falls on Cromwell's side in this debate. I think many of them could be persuaded that the liberal cause is better served by The Liberals.

When it comes down to it, the best of the `not what they want but what I think is good for them' brigade are the (genuinely) christian democrats, among whom I number the arguably worthy Mr. Blair. Of course the Christian Democrats are another matter. (Indeed, the Christians and the Democrats, once they don their capital letters, are A Problem, and this is my principal problem with Mr. T.Blair.) But they miss the point of, for instance, Hayek: when it comes down to it, if The State's role is to work out How Best To Run Britain (at which point it becomes The State, rather than merely the state) we might as well not have bothered fighting the wars we won against The Dictators (for whom C20 will be remembered).

The funny twist in British politics is that the choices we're offered are understood as choices between alternative portfolios of `what is good for Britain plc ?'. The presence of `what do you want' is left to the sub-text, which is where Greed can rule without its subjects having to admit to obeying it. Cambridge is a boom-town, but it's still the Great Red Spot of Anglia: my pride in that comes from the realisation that my fellow-citizens do see the benefit of sharing that prosperity around.

If the question of `what do we want' could be dragged into a more prominent position, I believe a lot more britons would be saying `we want the land fit for heroes that was promised in 1945': which is why The Powerful don't want that question to be part of contemporary political discourse. As long as it isn't asked, it's possible to pretend that `most of the (allegedly dumb stupid and morally atrophied) electorate would be voting for self-interest' so we'd better do what's `best for Britain' rather than following `stupid, short-sighted self-interest'. Which makes it possible to market policies aimed at the morally bankrupt (ie actually stupid, short-sighted and deluded into thinking itself to be self-interest) part of each elector's soul and slide this marketing past the true and real virtue of (a non-trivial proportion of) the British electorate.

Written by Eddy.
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